Earth Notes: Working, Worldwide, on Organic Farms

Mar 28, 2012

In spring farmers and gardeners feel that irresistible pull to get their hands in the dirt.

If you share that urge, a program exists to satisfy it almost anywhere you go. It’s called Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or “WWOOF” for short, and it links willing hands with farms that host volunteer workers.

In the Four Corners states, the list includes everything from small gardens and orchards to large farms and even bigger ranches. Hubbell Trading Post in northern Arizona offers an opportunity to work on a historic farm; in Castle Valley, Utah, a creamery and cheese producer is on the list; in western Colorado, an herb grower needs help.

For a nominal membership fee, volunteers have access to a directory of participating farms. They make direct contact to see if it’s a good match. Most host farms provide housing: it might be a tent, a yurt, a hogan, or a bunkhouse. They also furnish all the fresh organic food a person can eat.

Volunteers agree to work a set number of hours a day for a specified number of weeks. And it’s a fact: this is plain old manual labor—working outdoors in all weathers weeding, planting, harvesting, building fences, or tending livestock.

Organizers advise that the program isn’t intended as a cheap way to see the world. Only those who are ready to work hard should apply. For them, as one WWOOFER blogged, it’s a way to “get out there and touch some soil, turn some compost, pick a tomato from the vine.”